See, Amid the Winter's Snow

During this time whilst we can’t sing together in worship we are aiming to post a different hymn each week. For some Sundays it will be the obvious hymn in Common Praise for a particular Sunday and a brief commentary – partly with reference to The Penguin Book of Hymns edited by Ian Bradley, The Nation’s Favourite Hymns by Andrew Barr or research on the internet – will be published with our hymn choice for the week. The words of the hymn will be provided alongside a recording of the hymn, courtesy of Lucy Colbourne at home whilst Lancaster University is in lockdown. This will have been recorded by Billy Colbourne (Assistant Organist) and includes use of his Hauptwerk organ also at home, with the sounds of Salisbury Cathedral’s organ.

Charles Pavey – Organist & Choirmaster

See, Amid the Winter's Snow

See, amid the winter's snow,
Born for us on Earth below,
See, the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Hail, thou ever blessed morn,
Hail redemption's happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He who, throned in height sublime,
Sits amid the cherubim.

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this. 

Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.

Edward Caswalll

Music: John Goss

CCLI - 1073121







Hymn Commentary 

A decision was made that whichever carol was voted to be most popular of ten at Holy Trinity’s Virtual Christmas Fayreearly in December should become Hymn for the Week as close to Christmas Day as possible so here it is.  It needs to be pointed out that there was a certain amount of influence from both the Organist & Choirmaster and the Assistant Organist, however, to make sure that See Amid the Winter’s Snow was in the short list of that top ten in the first place.  

Despite the gentleness of the carol there is something about the music that makes it a joy to play before unleashing the climax of the final refrain.  The descant added to the final refrain – and much of the organ accompaniment – was composed by David Willcocks; as suggested in the previous Hymn for the Week (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) he had a large influence on the sounds that we associated with Christmas in the twentieth century.  Although, in the attached recording, the two middle verse have been omitted you will still be able to appreciate the climax of that final refrain with its invitation to ‘Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem’.  You will have heard those words after each of the verses although we ourselves are unlikely to be singing in Jerusalem…as I write, even many parts of England are currently out of bounds!  But there is no doubting that encouragement to sing at Christmas which the Assistant Organist and I have had the privilege to lead with the Choir and we only hope that in 2021 the congregation will be able to make up for not being able to in 2020.

The words of See Amid the Winter’s Snow were initially written by Edward Caswall (1814-1878).  Born in Yateley, Hampshire, he was an Anglican clergyman and hymn writer who converted to Roman Catholicism; he died in Edgbaston and is buried in Rednal, near Bromsgrove.  Originally there were seven verses of four lines, each followed by a refrain also of four lines; however I have never heard the singing of this seventh verse which has regularly been omitted from non-Roman Catholic hymnals: 

Virgin Mother, Mary blest
By the joys that fill thy breast,
Pray for us, that we may prove
Worthy of the Saviour's love.

The music was composed by John Goss (1800 -1880).  His upbringing was also in Hampshire; his father was an organist in Fareham and John attended a school in Ringwood. After many years as Organist at St Pauls’ Cathedral and as a professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London, he died in nearby Brixton.  Amongst his students were Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) and John Stainer who composed The Crucifixion and succeeded Goss at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Goss gave the tune the name Humility.  He was said to be a mild mannered character (and, by all accounts, too mild to deal with members of a cathedral choir who were too lazy to learn new music) who knew how to set music to completely lift the character of the words. 

Charles Pavey - Organist & Choirmaster

Anthem for the Week